If I was a Lady Gaga fan, how would I feel about her claim to have written her latest single in 10 minutes? Would I see that as a sign of her huge creativity? Or would I, on reflection, consider that the return for minutes invested, assuming this is another big hit, is going to make most Wall Street bonuses look relatively modest?
A cynic might say if it just took 10 minutes then she didn’t do a lot to make a lot.
It didn’t take 10 minutes of course. It took all the experience that Gaga brought up to that moment, and all the subsequent time it took, both hers and for everyone else involved – to get the ideas in the song expressed, captured, edited, packaged, marketed and distributed; time probably better expressed in at least months. So the key value metric here is misleading; it’s not actually time to create (the idea), it’s time to market (the final result). By drawing attention to the 10 minutes, Gaga has framed the product in the shortest terms, for reasons that she perhaps believes celebrate her artistry.
But audiences aren’t buying what she created in 10 minutes. They’re buying the end results of endless days by named and unnamed people to bring that idea alive. Critical distinction.
And in drawing attention to the 10 minutes she took, Gaga has, unwittingly or otherwise, devalued all of their time and contributions. I think they’ve been short-changed.
Gaga’s not alone of course in framing the value of what she does in this way. So many organisations want to explain what they offer in terms of the time it took, or didn’t take them – speed, somehow, being associated in the creative industries with genius or inspiration. But actually, for almost all of us, there is a massive difference between the creating minutes and the time we bring to a project through our past experience, and another chasm again, on the other side, between the formation of the concept and its cumulative delivery to market.
If you’re going to, or feel you have to, talk about time at all in conjunction with what you do, it’s that amount of time – the time it took to go from idea to shelf, and the time you had already invested before you had the idea in the first place – that you should be framing in your stories, because that amount of time feels careful and prudent and determined and produced.
10 minutes feels like what it is. A cup of tea.